Posted On April 9, 2014 by Print This Post

Nerds Unite! Plotting is Awesome! With Vanessa Knight

Calling all plotting nerds! You’re going to want to read Vanessa Knight’s post on plotting – it’s a real eye-opener!

Young_0433_8x10BWSome call me particular, some call me detail-oriented and others (you know who you are) call me words that aren’t appropriate for a family-friendly blog.  Do I get offended?  Do I get upset?  Do I put them in a book and plan for their character’s demise?

No, no and yes.  Of course, I plan for their demise.  It’s one of the fabulous perks of being a writer.  But offended?  No.  Upset?  Never.  I’m all those words and more.

Writing the story is fun.  Watching it unfold and develop gives me all kinds of happy goose bumps.  Skin pebbling as the tale winds together into one magical journey.  But the sweet spot – for me – planning and plotting.

I know… nerd.  That’s what many of you are thinking.  No one actually likes to plan out the book.  We like to see it form and take shape on the page, not in some elaborate graph with pictures and bios.

But somehow I love it.  I love the pictures, the bios and the graphs.  I love seeing the story mapped out in sketchy detail, a guide waiting for me to mold it into the final product.  Yep.  You caught me.

I’m a nerd.  Are you a nerd?  Wouldn’t you like to be a nerd, too?

You would?!  Fabulous.  Right now you must be thinking, “How does one enjoy the planning and plotting?”  If you’re not thinking that, just go with me here.

The secret to tingly, happy-chills when plotting and scheming the next book – shopping.  Shopping?  Who has time to shop and who has the money?  We’re starving artists, after all.

The beauty is, you don’t have to buy anything.  And if you schedule it into your plotting time, you’ll be making time to plot and have fun doing it.

Hear me out before you jump onto your favorite clothes store or electronics site.  If I get any spouse emails yelling at me because, “Vanessa said I could spend the day shopping,” I will disavow all knowledge.  So behave.  You’re not shopping for you.  This isn’t a free pass to surf the eCommerce superhighway.  You’re shopping for your characters.

Condo 2 CaptureWhere do they live?  Go to a real estate site and find the character’s homes.   (Hint:  A home with lots of pictures.)  Are they renters?  Owners?  Would they live in an apartment or house?  Take an hour and creep the realtor site.  Find the space that best represents each individual person.

What about their neighborhood?  There are so many different areas to choose from.  There are small towns, large cities, boroughs and suburbs.  Each locale is alive with their own positives and negatives.  Each can offer quirks of location or quirks of hometown characters.  Each locale can affect a person and their relationships in different ways.  So choose carefully.

How do your characters interact with their immediate setting?  After all, they say location can be another character.  Might as well make the locale interesting – and consistent.

Do you have the heroine rushing to a local coffee shop every few hours to meet with her friends?  Find a map for an existing city.  Get an idea for what the city has to offer and how it’s laid out.

Visio CaptureIf you don’t want to be confined by city-planning reality, use your imagination.  Make a map for your imagined city (Another hint:  Visio makes great maps).  If the local coffee shop they haunt is two blocks from your heroine’s apartment in chapter one, make sure it’s still there by chapter twenty.

What about your hero and heroine?  What is their style?  Hit up your favorite clothing store or better yet, think outside your closet.  Hit a store you’ve always wanted to try.  Just remember, these are clothes your hero/heroine would wear, so make it about them.  Find his/her style, cut and paste the examples into a document.

As I’m writing the book, I also put together a Bio sheet of quirks and interesting facts about the character.  Things that make my character tick.  That wSouthby Captureay, I don’t accidentally have Allison biting her nails, when it’s her sister who’s the nail biter.

With just a little bit of shopping and planning, I can have a relatively complete picture of my character’s influences and motivations.  A roadmap, per se of each character and their history.  I can use this information to anticipate their reactions as the story unfolds.

It just takes a little plotting and nerd-like preparation to get pictures of the backbone of your story.  Pictures that will guide you from page one to “The End”.


SecondTimesheCharm-smallHer first love is back.  Is she making a mistake or is the second time the charm.  

They say your first love is unforgettable, but Allison Southby would love to forget.  She still has the splintered heart from when Adam Byrnes ran from her bed, never to be heard form again.  Thankfully, she’s always had her work to keep her mind off her non-existent love life.   But when her boss, and mentor dies mysteriously and another company threatens to take over his legacy, her focus should be on fixing the company.  Yet, she can’t keep her mind, or hands off her late mentor’s son, Adam.   

Detective Adam Byrnes needs to get back to the life he built in Phoenix.    But between the questions surrounding his father’s death and keeping Allison safe, he can’t seem to leave the city of Chicago.

With danger swirling around them, can they find the love they once shared?


Are you a plotter or pantser? Or an in-betweener? What’s YOUR plotting style?

Join us on Friday as editor Tessa Shapcott snaps us into shape with her post about Deadlines.


Bio: Vanessa M. Knight writes contemporary romance novels with a dash of suspense.  She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and Windy City RWA.

She lives in Chicagoland with her husband, son and menagerie of dogs and cats. When not writing, Vanessa loves to scrapbook, watch movies and read anything she can find.

For more information on Vanessa, including her Internet haunts, contest updates, and details on her upcoming novels, please visit her website at:  |  |  |


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21 Responses to “Nerds Unite! Plotting is Awesome! With Vanessa Knight”

  1. This is a great post, Vanessa. I am a plotter, too. I usually make pretty extensive bios of all my major characters before I write, and then I shape the plot around the characters. I like your idea of shopping for your character. I’m a guy and not such an avid shopper, but I think this approach would help me flesh out my characters more fully. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas.

    Posted by Matthew Peters | April 9, 2014, 7:19 am
    • I’m totally character driven myself. I find it’s easier for me to get in their heads and flesh out their personality if I know some of the little things about them. What they wear, why? But I do have that shopping gene that makes me enjoy the process. : }

      Posted by Vanessa M. Knight | April 9, 2014, 9:07 am
  2. Excellent ideas here. I’m not a plotter for the story, but I do like to know the core of my characters and always create a bio for them. I can see that shopping for the things in their lives would add another layer. And give me an excuse for exploring real estate in other parts of the world – a villa in Tuscany perhaps.

    Posted by Luanna Stewart | April 9, 2014, 7:52 am
    • The real-estate part is the best part. I love seeing what’s available in the area where my character lives or works. I love seeing the space and picturing my characters playing out their scenes in the space.

      Posted by Vanessa M. Knight | April 9, 2014, 9:17 am
  3. Morning Vanessa!

    I have a tough time with plotting…I try it and generally end up with a straggly mess. But shopping? Now I can do shopping! =)

    And I’m thinking Visio sounds right up my alley. I’m building a small farming community, and that would help me visualize where everyone lives. Awesome!

    Thanks for a great post Vanessa!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | April 9, 2014, 8:06 am
  4. Hi Vanessa,

    I’m a pantser. My characters start by talking to each other. A pre-date interview if you will.

    Congrats on your book!!!!

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | April 9, 2014, 8:29 am
  5. Hi Venessa,
    I’m more an outliner than a plotter (I know, potato-potato). However, I am definitely a planner, which means I extensively create characters with backstories and histories generations deep. You’re right, it’s gold. Now if only I could lay it all down into neat turning points and then follow along.
    Congratulations on your debut and I can’t wait to read your book!

    Posted by Sonali Dev | April 9, 2014, 10:25 am
    • I’m constantly trying to come up with better ways to lay out the info and story lines. I want it readily available and easy to use. It’s a process and everyday I learn more techniques. Hopefully this glimpse into my current outline will give everyone an idea they can use.

      Posted by Vanessa M. Knight | April 9, 2014, 11:34 am
  6. I love plotting. Its my favorite part of the process. I actually do a plotting board now which helps me visualize the story so much!!

    If that makes me a nerd, I embrace it!

    Posted by Megan Ryder | April 9, 2014, 11:27 am
    • I’m all for nerd-dom. I like pictures – pictures of where my story is going and where it’s been. Each plot-point-document is that picture to me. It helps keep me on track. I have not tried the plotting board yet, though. I might have to give that a try. : }

      Posted by Vanessa M. Knight | April 9, 2014, 11:36 am
  7. I have stood before writers groups and admitted, I am a plotter. My storyboard can serve as many authors first draft, complete with dialog and scene setting. And I use forms to track details and character info. When I lecture I tell people to use what you need when you need it. The entire book doesn’t have to be tightly outlined before starting to write which ties in with your suggstion about shopping. I love your suggestion to tie in the research to plotting. Great suggestion.

    Posted by Helen Henderson | April 9, 2014, 1:45 pm
    • Thanks, Helen! I love documenting what I can for the current book and for use when I start the next book in a series. It helps me keep track of character traits and storyline. I can stay truer to each character if I keep their personal info on hand.

      Posted by Vanessa M. Knight | April 9, 2014, 4:20 pm
  8. Thanks Vanessa for a great post – I’m looking forward to “shopping” with my characters!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | April 9, 2014, 9:38 pm
  9. Thank you for having me today! I had a great time.

    Posted by Vanessa M Knight | April 9, 2014, 10:03 pm
  10. I’m a pantser, and when I hear or read about techniques plotters use, I go a little weak at the knees. I do some of the things you mention, though – character bios, etc. – and that helps. I’ll have to try some of your other suggestions. Thank you!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | April 9, 2014, 10:45 pm
  11. This post cracked me up. I admit to being a nerd, although maybe not going into this much detail! I have found walking through Ikea to be useful for coming up with stories. It’s like walking inside an adult Barbie dream house. I’ve also gotten inspiration by looking at photos on Shutterstock, especially for character appearances.

    Posted by G.G. Andrew | April 10, 2014, 7:40 am
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    αμαξιου σε toyota

    Posted by Μηχανικος αυτοκινητων αθηνα | July 16, 2015, 4:29 am


  1. […] This one is for writers a how-to in developing your plot and filling out your characters by Vanessa Knight. Personally, I loved the pictures. But the content is the real gem–don’t listen to me, I’ve had too much coffee. […]

  2. […] Welcome back to Vanessa Knight! She posted with us last April with a fabulous post – Nerds Unite – Plotting is Awesome! […]

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